Students and Staff in RRC’s Hospitality and Culinary Arts Program adjust and stay positive despite COVID-19 restrictions

By: Samantha McEwan

Some culinary students at the Paterson GlobalFoods Institute feel hopeful for their future despite heightened COVID restrictions at their student-run restaurant, Jane’s. 

Jane’s provides a training ground for Red River College’s Hospitality and Culinary Arts students to hone their skills and get the hands-on experience needed to succeed in the industry. 

The restaurant opened its doors for lunchtime service on Sept. 3 but only recently started booking dinner reservations as of Sept. 24. 

Alyssa Nadres, a second-year Culinary Arts student, says morale is still high in the classroom and students are just excited to be back in the kitchen after a stressful summer. 

“We’re just glad to be getting the guests in,” said Nadres. “It still surprises me how we got so many reservations, but I’m glad.”

Thousands of pounds of food go through the doors at Paterson GlobalFoods Institute every year. The building was originally built in 1903 and was turned into PGI in 2009. /SAMANTHA MCEWAN

Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba’s chief provincial health officer, announced last month that approximately half of all COVID-19 cases in Winnipeg could be traced back to bars and restaurants. 

Roughly three days later the City of Winnipeg escalated to a code orange designation, including a public mask mandate and reduced capacity for indoor spaces.

This has forced Jane’s and other restaurants in Winnipeg to carry out new safety precautions to keep customers returning and maintain public trust.

Jane’s has recently updated their safety measures. Clients must now wait outdoors and be let in only at their scheduled booking time.  Additionally, staff must use masks and there are increased cleaning schedules.  

Despite this, Culinary Arts instructor Cassandra Watson said students are busy most nights of the week and the restaurant is still seeing lots of bookings. 

“We had to take out a few tables, for distancing purposes, but the customers still want to come. We’re busy,” said Watson.

Nadres said although she and her classmates were nervous about returning, she is impressed with the safety precautions at Jane’s and is confident guests will feel safe as well. 

Jane’s Restaurant is located at 504 Main Street and opens at 11:15 for lunch. Guests are asked to stand outside until let in by a staff member. /SAMANTHA MCEWAN

“Although there is uncertainty, there is that reassuring thought that many people are still willing to go out and eat,” she said.

Other departments at the Paterson GlobalFoods Institute share confidence in the survival of the hospitality industry through the pandemic. Stephanie Gosselin, a Professional Baking and Pastry student, found it relatively easy to land a co-op position in a grocery store.

“Everybody wants freshly baked bread and fresh baked goods. Grocery stores never really took a hit,” she says.

Gosselin said the dip in local restaurant revenue is forcing bakeries to refocus their energy from dining room service to retail distribution which can lead to new opportunities for students.